NEW ZEALAND batsmen smile during a practice session on the eve of the first One-day International against Pakistan. —White Star
NEW ZEALAND batsmen smile during a practice session on the eve of the first One-day International against Pakistan. —White Star

RAWALPINDI: New Zealand were dealt a major setback on Thursday after it was announced that their wicket-keeper/batter Tom Blundell would miss the entire ODI series against Pakistan here in Rawalpindi with a left-quad strain.

Blundell’s spot in the ODI squad will be filled up by batting all-rounder Daryl Mitchell, who is already part of the Black Caps’ squad for the five-match T20 International series against Pakistan in Lahore, and will become available for the last two one-dayers after completing the mandatory isolation.

Blundell, meanwhile, suffered the injury during the fourth T20 game against Bangladesh in Dhaka last week. And according to New Zealand physio Nishil Shah, the 31-year-old required a concentrated period of rehabilitation to make full recovery from the injury.

“Tom’s been working hard since the injury in Bangladesh,” Shah said in a New Zealand Cricket (NZC) statement on Thursday morning. “The injury’s not quite where we want it so we think it’s best for him to concentrate on his rehab given the big summer of cricket ahead.”

Blundell hasn’t appeared in ODIs since February 2020 and just two matches — both against India.

Mitchell, the 30-year-old right-handed batter who bowls occasional medium-pacers, made his ODI against Bangladesh earlier this year and scored an unbeaten 100 against them in the final game at Wellington’s Basin Reserve.

New Zealand interim head coach Glenn Pocknall, meanwhile, termed Blundell’s absence — from the ODI series — as a major blow.

“Obviously everyone is gutted for Tom because he’s a quality player with a diverse skill-set,” Pocknall stated in the NZC media release. “He’ll remain with the squad and we’re hopeful he’ll be available again for the T20 series.”

Pocknall further said that after consultation with regular New Zealand head coach Gary Stead it was decided Mitchell was best suited as a replacement.

“Fortunately, we have someone of Daryl’s quality to join us early for the ODIs,” he said.“He’s shown last summer what a destructive batsman he is, while also offering another useful bowling option.

“With Tom out, we do lose our first choice back-up wicket-keeping option. But there are several guys in the squad with keeping experience and we’ll ensure they do the necessary work at training to be up to speed if called upon.”

Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2021

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